Race Reports

Waterloo Marathon


The St. John’s Waterloo Marathon is relatively new, and still quite small.  I was looking forward to a nice country run, almost like a spring version of the PEC marathon in Picton.  I was able to convince John Brennan to sign up as a training race for his spring goal race in Mississauga, just a few weeks later.  We agreed we would run together, just as we normally would do on any other Sunday morning back in Strathroy. 

I slept over at my sister’s place in Guelph the night before the race, so that I could visit the family, and cut down on my morning drive.  It was nice to see Sarah, even though Cameron was already asleep when I got there.  It was a quick drive to the race venue.  Luckily, I was using my GPS, because I could have easily have gotten lost on those jumbled up K-W streets. 

I met John and we got ourselves ready.  They had a big indoor soccer field for the runners to gather in before the race, which was nice because the weather looked like it was going to be fairly wet all day long. 

In the first couple kilometers of the race, we came up behind Ron Gehl.  After saying hello, I asked him what brought him out.  I knew he was a hardcore trail runner and that the mainstream races weren’t really his thing.  He told me that he quit road marathons a long time ago, but it was a girl that changed his mind.  As Ron settled into his pace, John and I carried on. 

We later caught up with another guy I recognized from the ultra series, Chris.  We chatted a bit, and I found out that his race calendar was about as busy as mine.  He was having some issues with his knee and had to slow down as John and I carried forward. 

It was quite nice running through the Amish countryside, although we could have done without the rain.  Another interesting feature of this race is that there are Scottish pipers playing throughout the route.  They braved the rain along with the rest of us. 

Parts of the course were similar to the route I ran for the ENDURrun Stage 7 marathon.  There were some really long sections of highway with rolling hills that were starting to wear us down past 30k.  Before long, we started to enter back into the city, and we knew we were almost there. 

John and I were motivated mostly by just wanting to get out of the cold rain, and pushed to the finish in almost exactly three and a half hours.  A change of clothes and a warm coffee was definitely in order. 

After a few post-race chats, it was back in the car and on the road back to London.  The next few weeks are going to start to get quite busy, with lots of races coming up.    

Seaton Trail Ultra

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Seaton is the first race of the season for the Ontario Ultra Series, set on some of the beautiful trails of Pickering, ON.  It would also be the first ultra where Steph would be there as my support crew. 

We drove up the day before, and visited with Steph’s friend Amanda, who lives in nearby Whitby.  We stayed there overnight, hoping to get a bit of extra sleep in the morning. 

Amanda joined Steph’s support crew, keeping her company while I was out on the course.  At registration, I learned that the route involved a water crossing that was only 2k into the course.  I was not really mentally prepared for running with soaked feet, but I thought maybe my merino wool socks would keep me somewhat comfortable.

The first part of the trail was along grass fields that turned off onto a dried out waterway, which was quite gravelly.  Sure enough, only a couple kilometers in, we had to cross a stream.  Some people were taking their shoes off, and others were just plowing right through.  I figured I would just go for it and get wet.  It took a little bit to get used to, but slowly, I became more comfortable and continued running normally. 

We were back onto some fun trails, and I was following another runner close behind.  After a few minutes without seeing a marker, I asked if we were headed the right way, or if we missed a turn.    The runner ahead assured me that he knew we were going the right way. 

A few moments later, as we were hopping across boulders to get to the other side of the stream, it didn’t seem like we were on track.  Foolishly, I followed the guy anyway, and all of a sudden, we popped out on a road and joined back in with the other runners, just past an aid station.

I walked over to the station to grab a drink and the volunteers asked where I had come from.  I explained that I had been following this other guy (who had ignored the aid station and carried on) and came out of the woods just beyond the road.  They told me I was off course and I would have to trace back and find out where I made a wrong turn.  Not what I wanted to hear, but I knew it was only fair.  I did not want to cheat.  

About 40 minutes later, I made it back to the aid station, and was back on track.  I figured I ran an extra 5 or 6k and the guy I followed skipped about 3k.  I described what he looked like to the volunteers and continued on with the race. 

The rest of the course was mostly well-groomed trails and parkland, which was beautiful to run on.  I started to familiarize myself with some of the ultra running staples, such as boiled potatoes dipped in salt, pretzels, jube-jubes and more.  Just based on the food, I knew ultra-running was the right sport for me.

I saw the guy I followed off course as he was coming back from the turn-around and I still had a few kilometers to go.  I checked on my watch, and sure enough, when I got back to the same spot, it was about 40 minutes later.  I wondered if he was going to get away with what he had done.  I didn’t have time to dwell on it though; I had my own race to run!

By the time I made it all the way back to the Start/Finish line, Steph’s other friend, Laila, had dropped by.  They spent the time I was out on the course to make big signs that they could use to cheer me on.  I was so grateful for their support.  Steph was wondering what took me so long, and I explained the extra running I had done.  I wanted to get back out there so I could try and make up some of the time I had lost. 

For my second out-and-back, I cruised through the trails, and not even slowing down through the water.  By the time I reached the final turn-around, I was starting to feel pretty drained, but I found the potatoes and the pop helped to pick me back up.  Halfway back, I came up behind Ron Gehl (who was running the 78k that day), and I asked him if he had any advice for me.  He told me just to keep moving forward.  Simple, but it works.  That advice has since helped me through some tough moments. 

Once I made it to the water crossing, I knew I only had a couple kilometers to go and I gave it everything I had.  As I ran up the grass towards the finish, I saw Steph and her friends cheering and waving the banners they had made.  I felt so good to be finishing.   Laila even made me a special little medal for the extra distance I travelled. 

The post-race meal was decent food, but not much of an event.  It was basically self-serve whenever you finished, so there were only a couple others around at the time. 

We all headed back to Amanda’s so I could shower up.  I didn’t realize until afterwards, that during my second out-and-back, the girls left to go out shopping before I finished the race.  Maybe Steph will be excited to come out to more races now that she knows it can be that much fun.  At least I know that I have a much better time when she is out to support me.  I hope that there’s many more to come! 

© Brian Groot 2016